RFID Coming To A Cell Phone Near You

By Roland Piquepaille

In "RFID Goes Mobile", Red Herring reports that Nokia has quietly launched last month the first RFID-enabled cell phone. The Mobile RFID Kit will be available later this year and only for the 5140 model. This accessory allows the user to easily launch services and conveniently access phone functions simply by touching the phone to an RFID tag. The phone accesses the RFID tag data when an RFID reader emits a short-range radio signal that powers a microchip on the tag, allowing the ID information and other stored data to be read. Nokia doesn't intend to sell this kit to ordinary consumers like you and me. Instead, the RFID kit is designed to extend the mobility of workforce already on the move, such as security guards or maintenance people.

Here are some excerpts from the article.

At a trade show in Germany last month, Nokia unveiled its first GSM phone with RFID, as an optional accessory for its 5140 phone. The phone is "designed for professional field service type workers or people that have to prove their attendance" at work, says Peter Wakim, director of new business development for Nokia's Americas division.
A security guard making his rounds could use an RFID-enabled phone to send confirmation to security headquarters that he checked certain locations. "It gives us real-time activity, when in the past, they would have to take a bar code reader and download it" at a later time, says Mr. Wakim.

While Nokia's mobile kit is the first RFID-enabled phone on the market, it might not be a success. Other phone manufacturers are looking at touch-based technology, which evolved from RFID.

Nokia is the first to bet on RFID for cell phones, but whether or not it will pay off remains to be seen. By diversifying its handset arsenal, if only with peripherals, the Finnish company hopes to improve stagnant sales and maintain its dominance in the massive, but increasingly segmented, cell phone market.

And what about price and availability?

Nokia's mobile RFID kit, an optional accessory compatible with its 5140 phone, should be ready for shipment later this year. The company has yet to price the kit, which will reverse the traditional RFID concept of a moving tag and a stationary reader. Nokia's RFID kit consists of a moving reader -- the cell phone -- and a stationary tag, which can be placed anywhere. The kit will consist of two RFID reader shells that attach to the phone, Java software, and 20 RFID tags.

Here is a link to how this kit will be used, according to Nokia.

It's worth noting that Nokia is quite discreet about this kit and that it doesn't plan to sell it on the general consumer market. And the company doesn't say if the kit will be available with other models.

For other information about RFID tags, you might want to check two previous columns, "Are RFID Dangers Vastly Overhyped?" or "RFID Chips Everywhere."

Sources: Red Herring, April 14, 2004; Nokia website

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